It’s not just a diet of fattening and sugary foods that can lead to childhood obesity. Consuming too much food in general can be unhealthy as well. With “super size” as part of everyone’s vocabulary and restaurants serving up giant portions, it’s important to teach your children about proper portions, even of supposed “healthy” foods. However, there are things about portion control that even adults are unaware of. Here are some tips to teach your children how to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full.
- Serving sizes: It’s a common misconception that the nutrition label serving sizes indicate the amount that’s recommended to eat in a single sitting. However, these “serving sizes” are simply there to tell you how many calories and nutrients are in that specific portion. That doesn’t mean the serving size determines how much is supposed to be consumed at once.
- Portion sizes: Portion sizes are recommendations for what you should consume in a single sitting. Chances are, it’s a lot less than you think. The United States Department of Agriculture states that half of a dinner plate should consist of fruits and/or vegetables, and less than a quarter of it should be the protein. However, for many Americans, protein is the main part of the meal.
Teach your children to eat proper portions
Kids typically don’t understand the concept of portion size. If they enjoy what they’re eating, chances are they’ll keep eating it until they get a stomachache. If they don’t like it, they’ll probably leave it on the plate. Luckily, there are ways to ingrain the concept of healthy portions in your child’s mind.
- Don’t let your child snack on a bag of chips or crackers. Instead, pour the proper amount into a bowl. If he or she wants more, wait a while to ensure he or she is actually still hungry rather than just wanting to continuously snack because the food tastes good.
- Serve dinner portions from the stove or counter rather than the table. This will lessen the chances of everyone reaching for seconds. If your child says he or she is still hungry, offer him or her more salad or side veggies before serving up the main entree.
- When eating at a restaurant, consider splitting a meal with your child. Most restaurant portions are practically double or triple what the USDA considers a healthy portion size, so the two of you will probably each be satisfied after splitting a meal. This will cut down on your restaurant bill and limit food waste, too.
- Don’t force your children to clean their plates. Being able to tell when they’re no longer hungry is a good way to begin learning to control their portions.
In general, kids should be eating smaller portions than adults. While they may rival you when they’re in the midst of a growth spurt, normally they require less food for energy than adults. If you don’t have any measuring cups handy, you can use your hand as a guide for your own portion sizes and your child’s hand as a guide for his or hers.
- A serving of pasta, cereal, fruits or veggies should be about the size of a fist.
- A serving of meat should be about the size of a palm.
- No more than the size of the top of your thumb should be used for added fats, like mayonnaise or salad dressing.